Rail giant QR National has announced it is evaluating an independent, multi-party railway to connect major iron ore mines in the East Pilbara to Port Hedland.


The company announced the possibility of a standard-gauge railway to be designed as a staged development to be progressively expanded to meet shipping allocations of customers, with operation possibly starting as early as 2015.


"QR National believes the Pilbara offers one of our Company’s most outstanding growth opportunities where we can leverage existing capability in heavy-haul rail," said QR National Executive Vice President Strategy and Business Development, Ken Lewsey.


"We’ve been constructing and operating multi-user heavy-haul railways in Queensland’s coalfields for decades. This coal network has current capacity for 250 million tonnes per annum, potentially growing to 300 mtpa by 2015.


"This capability is readily transferrable to the Pilbara where a number of independent miners are seeking rail transport solutions.


"The value of an independent railway is that we can achieve the economies of scale by aggregating the tonnages of multiple parties, as well as delivering efficiency gains across a co-ordinated supply chain."


QR National has signed an Agreement with Atlas Iron to jointly study a proposal to service iron ore deposits of Atlas and other miners in the first stage of the proposed infrastructure development.